Luxist Gets an Education in Flowers at Camelback Flowershop
Gallery: Luxist Visits Camelback Flowershop
What are some basics about taking care of flowers?
Fresh cut, super clean water. If you wouldn't drink the water then the flower wouldn't drink it. A flower doesn't have a big mouth to swallow the water, it has tiny pores, so if the water is even a little bit dirty it'll clog the pores.
If the stem is dry when you get home you need to recut it because it's like it has scabbed over all the pores. Then give it a fresh cut every other day, preferably at an angle – which is called a European cut, the only one we do here – because it creates larger pores, gives them an oval shape. And if you do it with a sharp knife it glides right through – if you do it with scissors it sometimes pinches the pores.
I fill my vases up because I like them full, but generally speaking I would say two-thirds to all the way up to the top of the vase, no matter what size the vase is.
Flower packets or flower food will make them last a few days longer. The food really just keeps the water from getting mildewy or moldy, because once it gets moldy it clogs the pores. All of our flowers come with it, but you can buy it anywhere. A little goes a long way – you can probably put in a good tablespoon or two per gallon.
Especially for Arizona clients, you don't want flowers directly under air conditioning. It will dry them out really fast. To preserve them don't put them in direct sunlight so they don't get overheated. They're not going to grow anymore, they don't need it – they've already been cut.
What is different about Camelback Flowershop?
Everyone loves what they do here – you're never going to walk in here and one of my employees is in a bad mood or not going to give you their full attention. We love our clients – we greet them with champagne and cappuccino, we hang out with them. Even if they're not buying anything they come in and say hi to us, there's truly that neighborhood feeling that's really hard to find in Arizona. The atmosphere looks like it could be a little pretentious, but you never get that feeling from my group of people.
Our arrangements are just flowers. We don't add mums and baby's breath and Queen Anne's Lace – we don't add greenery to make an arrangement look bigger, we use more flowers to make it look bigger. We are not your cheapest florist but you're not going to get the same flowers here that you can get anywhere else. People weren't used to that, and understandably.
You can get carnations, gladiolas, irises from any florist but us. Even if they're requested, we don't sell them. For me, if you like going into a Barneys or a Neiman Marcus and looking for a Target outfit, then you should go to Target. You go to Neiman for the fashion and the rare and unique.
Roses are different – you can get basic roses anywhere, Safeway has pretty roses – but ours are exclusive: the petal counts are ridiculous, the head size is gigantic. Chile and Ecuador have the best selection of roses, and some of my roses will last ten days. They'll have a tangly, loopy center that isn't normal, and they're fat and full incredible. Sometimes I'll get lime green roses with different red speckles on the inside, or I'll get these peach, Amnesia Roses in. They're a true peach but all the petals on the outside are a deep, limey green. I'm not a big rose fan, I think they're kind of cliché because everyone wants a dozen roses, so I thought if I'm going to carry roses I want the most incredible roses, the funky roses of the world. We also carry a very rare rose from a farm in England called David Austin Roses. They're the most fragrant roses, they smell like freshly sliced pears and they look like a big, ridiculous garden rose. They don't last long – the more scent a rose has the shorter the shelf life, but I don't care if a rose lasts for two days.
We can design to a particular vessel, which is an art in itself. A couple of designers brought in a 40-pound crystal tortoiseshell vase, and it was so gorgeous on its own that all I ended up doing was 65 mini hydrangeas. It didn't need anything else, so I made the flowers accent the piece.
If you want something specific to your taste you may have a difficult time getting it at a chain shop as opposed to a local flower shop that knows you. We go to our clients houses, we see their style, so if they call me up and say "I'm throwing a baby shower at my house, I need something for the bathroom, for the powder room, for the kitchen island," I know exactly what they want. It's tailored to the client's needs.
We do onsite consultations. We'll come in and tour the house and take notes, sometimes we'll let them borrow vases because we're local, that's what you do. We also work with interior decorators and designers – they might bring in an amazing vessel they've found, or we'll go in as the interior design is being completed so we get the style of the home. If the owner wants to have a party when the house is complete or if the interior designer wants to complete the home with flowers throughout, we'll visit and then design an amazing arrangement.
Advice for brides?
Some brides don't really have many particulars in mind, so going to a chain florist and getting a package deal might be their best route. For brides that something very particular, who want the flowers to match the linens and the lighting, the main thing is to bring the color palette to florist. I have brides that come in that have no idea what they want, so I start showing them pictures. I start with styles, to see if you like architectural, minimalistic lines, or if you like more of a vintage, organic feel, or something that's very girly and Hollywood. It's my job as a designer to find out what they really want. They might combine different styles and say, "My style is rustic glamour," so I say "Let's see what that looks like," and then when they show me, it's nothing like that. I'll show them what I think rustic glamour looks like, and they actually want architectural and minimalistic. Bringing pictures that inspire you is really helpful for a designer because they can take that picture and say "Why do you like this?" and "Do you like this shape versus this shape," "Do you like high or low arrangements?" If you don't have a starting point and if you go to a florist that can't help you get there, go to another florist. Go to a florist that inspires you and makes you feel comfortable and confident in what you're getting. If you feel like you're getting ripped off you might be.
I would watch out for florists that don't give you line item details in a quote. They should tell you exactly what flowers you're getting and what colors they are and how much it costs. A bridal bouquet should have all the flowers that will be included in that bouquet, what they're using to wrap the bouquet, if they're using things like gemstones or crystals, and then the price, and the same thing with every other arrangement so there are no surprises. And they should be pretty flexible with the quote until a couple of months before the wedding. It's July now, for a wedding in November my way is that you put 50% down now to hold the date, but between now and 30 days before your wedding you can change anything you want. That makes them realize we're here for them, it's their wedding and we're not going to try to control it. If they have other ideas that make them happy they can come in and we'll work it out. Nothing's locked in stone until I order the flowers 30 days before the wedding. Then you can't take anything away because I've already paid for them.
What's your favorite flower right now?
The Café au Lait Dahlia. It's this huge dahlia that's tangly in the middle, very organic and wild looking and has all these wild buds coming off of it. It's as big as your face, and it starts out with this creamy ivory color and it shifts into this classy pink in the end, or depending on the bunch you get, sometimes it starts off in pink and ends in white. It's gorgeous. Dahlias come in season all year round but the Café au Laits only in summer, usually in season until about September, sometimes early October.
There are these peony tulips I found last year that look like the underside of a cancan dress, with super tassels, ruffled, it looks like a peony but it's a tulip. They're incredible and they last a long time.
Can you source flowers from anywhere?
Oh yeah, I can pretty much get anything. Big white calla lilies usually come in a generic cigar shape, but there are ones that open really wide, absolutely exotic, called the Love Calla Lilly, you get from a field in Ecuador and one of my vendors has exclusive rights to it. We can get them anytime. We get our hydrangeas from Germany and they're huge, one of the biggest flowers you can get, eight to ten inches in diameter. Peonies naturally grow in May and June, but if I have a bride that has to have them in October I import them from Israel. Some of our greenery comes from Africa, like African myrtle.
I've got incredible vendors that have relationships with growers I don't even know about, and I have really strong relationships with all of my direct growers. A lot of people have their own little fields and they really enjoy working directly with smaller flower shops but they're really hard to break into. When I first started calling and traveling to make relationships they were standoffish, so I hounded them for a long time in the nicest way I possibly could and I've had relationships with a lot of them for eight to ten years.
They'll give me preferential treatment from time to time so I'll get flowers you can't get anywhere else. Some of my vendors sell green-and-white striped tulips, but I have a grower that sends me Parrot Tulips that are pink-and-green-and-white striped, with ruffled, crinkly edges instead of smooth petals. Or I'll get Sawtooth Tulips with jagged edges. If you order them a week or two in advance I can get some really cool things in.
There are certain flowers I won't recommend, like a magnolia flower, which just doesn't ship – it'll be brown and dead by the time you get it. I can get magnolia leaves for anyone any time, but the actual blooms, they literally pick them and overnight them and they're brown by the time they get here. I have alternatives, but certain things aren't always a good idea.
Do you have a philosophy on flowers and designing?
The one thing to me that's always out of fashion is when someone asks "What does a certain flower mean?" Flowers mean whatever you want them to mean – you're giving them as gifts. I feel like it was a late 70s, early 80s thing, marketers like Hallmark said yellow means friendship and red means love. If you like yellow roses and you want to give them to your wife because you love her, then give her the yellow roses.
A guy will come in and say he wants flowers for someone he's dating, and I'll ask the guy 'what is she like, is she bubbly and outgoing, sophisticated and calm, what's her house look like, tell me about her.' Some guys are like, "Uhh...," they don't really know what to say, so I'll ask about the kinds of conversations they have. Any adjectives I can get from him help me design something based on what he can tell me about her personality. Flowers to me are amazing and beautiful in and of themselves, but if you can design something to someone's personality, that's what's in fashion.